Story type: Literature
Anybody can order, but to serve with grace,
tact and effectiveness is a fine art.
In San Francisco lived a lawyer–age, sixty–rich in money, rich in intellect, a business man with many interests.
Now, this lawyer was a bachelor, and lived in apartments with his Chinese servant “Sam.”
Sam and his master had been together for fifteen years.
The servant knew the wants of his employer as though he were his other self. No orders were necessary.
If there was to be a company–one guest or a hundred–Sam was told the number, that was all, and everything was provided.
This servant was cook, valet, watchman, friend.
No stray, unwished-for visitor ever got to the master to rob him of his rest when he was at home.
If extra help was wanted, Sam secured it; he bought what was needed; and when the lawyer awakened in the morning, it was to the singing of a tiny music-box with a clock attachment set for seven o’clock.
The bath was ready; a clean shirt was there on the dresser, with studs and buttons in place; collar and scarf were near; the suit of clothes desired hung over a chair; the right pair of shoes, polished like a mirror, was at hand, and on the mantel was a half-blown rose, with the dew still upon it, for a boutonniere.
Downstairs, the breakfast, hot and savory, waited.
When the good man was ready to go to the office, silent as a shadow stood Sam in the hallway, with overcoat, hat and cane in hand.
When the weather was threatening, an umbrella was substituted for the cane. The door was opened, and the master departed.
When he returned at nightfall, on his approach the door swung wide.
Sam never took a vacation; he seemed not to either eat or sleep.
He was always near when needed; he disappeared when he should.
He knew nothing and he knew everything.
For weeks scarcely a word might pass between these men, they understood each other so well.
The lawyer grew to have a great affection for his servant.
He paid him a hundred dollars a month, and tried to devise other ways to show his gratitude; but Sam wanted nothing, not even thanks.
All he desired was the privilege to serve.
But one morning as Sam poured his master’s coffee, he said quietly, without a shade of emotion on his yellow face, “Next week I leave you.”
The lawyer smiled.
“Next week I leave you,” repeated the Chinese; “I hire for you better man.”
The lawyer set down his cup of coffee. He looked at the white-robed servant. He felt the man was in earnest.
“So you are going to leave me–I do not pay you enough, eh? That Doctor Sanders who was here–he knows what a treasure you are. Don’t be a fool, Sam; I’ll make it a hundred and fifty a month–say no more.”
“Next week I leave you–I go to China,” said the servant impassively.
“Oh, I see! You are going back for a wife? All right, bring her here–you will return in two months? I do not object; bring your wife here–there is work for two to keep this place in order. The place is lonely, anyway. I’ll see the Collector of the Port, myself, and arrange your passage-papers.”
“I go to China next week: I need no papers–I never come back,” said the man with exasperating calmness and persistence.
“By God, you shall not go!” said the lawyer.
“By God, I will!” answered the heathen.
It was the first time in their experience together that the servant had used such language, or such a tone, toward his master.
The lawyer pushed his chair back, and after an instant said, quietly, “Sam, you must forgive me; I spoke quickly. I do not own you–but tell me, what have I done–why do you leave me this way, you know I need you!”
“I will not tell you why I go–you laugh.”
“No, I shall not laugh.”
“I say, I will not.”
“Very well, I go to China to die!”
“Nonsense! You can die here. Haven’t I agreed to send your body back if you die before I do?”
“I die in four weeks, two days!”
“My brother, he in prison. He twenty-six, I fifty. He have wife and baby. In China they accept any man same family to die. I go to China, give my money to my brother–he live, I die!”
The next day a new Chinaman appeared as servant in the lawyer’s household. In a week this servant knew everything, and nothing, just like Sam.
And Sam disappeared, without saying good-by.
He went to China and was beheaded, four weeks and two days from the day he broke the news of his intent to go.
His brother was set free.
And the lawyer’s household goes along about as usual, save when the master calls for “Sam,” when he should say, “Charlie.”
At such times there comes a kind of clutch at his heart, but he says nothing.